The latest contract, in September, was worth £9.1mln to provide insight from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data to assist in a Phase III clinical trial for a drug to treat Huntington's disease.
Huntington’s is one of five neurological disease therapeutic areas in which it is actively supporting the hunt for breakthrough treatments, having already landed contracts from companies active in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, PSP (progressive supranuclear palsy), and MS.
Focused on neuroscience
“Neurological disease represents a major unmet medical need”, says Giulio Cerroni, chief executive, adding that the company is seeing growing demand for its services.
Macro trends such as an ageing population, coupled with there being very few medicines available for these debilitating and potentially life-limiting diseases, is driving increased investment in the neuroscience drug discovery and development pipeline from big pharmaceutical and bioscience companies.
This latest contract win is IXICO’s fourth announced this year for Huntington’s – a genetic disorder which is inherited and causes brain cell death and can degrade mental and physical abilities.
“The core of our strategy is expertise, we have to be the ‘go to’ people for analysis of medical images in the brain”, Cerroni adds.
Financial numbers have started to reflect the growing interest.
In August, the group forecast revenue growth this year of nearly 25% or at least £5.1mln, while losses will also be significantly reduced.
What it does
IXICO’s digital platform and Artificial Intelligence (AI) software manages and helps interpret images from MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scanners as well as collating and making sense of Real World data from wearable biosensors.
But the IXICO business model is far subtler than simply being a digital pharma services business to clinical trials.
Its collaboration with the giant Biogen is illustrative of this.
It is providing the digital platform to connect physicians treating patients with multiple sclerosis with neuroradiology expertise to enable them to reliably detect and monitor the safety of the company’s flagship product, Tysabri.
While it is a hugely effective treatment, there is a small risk an increased incidence of infection with JC polyomavirus in the brain which can lead to progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy or PML.
PML is a serious condition that ultimately can result in serious disability or even death.
IXICO’s technology helps spot the signs of potential PML infection early and differentiate it from signs of MS disease activity, providing the physician with a second opinion and help them determine if the patient should continue with Tysabri treatment.
For Biogen this offers a huge boon – it is a way of keeping tabs on patients and it means more people can be safely put on the MS drug than are currently receiving it.
Crossing the Rubicon
In providing such a drug safety monitoring service, IXICO has crossed the commercial Rubicon (if one can actually do that).
It has taken a useful piece of technology deployed in the clinical development of drugs and developed a companion product that will help doctors prescribe drugs more effectively.
Now, this is a hot area, one potentially worth tens of billions of pounds when it is fully developed and IXICO’s strategy is quite simple – it wants a small slither of the pie.
It is using the technology backbone from its current digital platform, TrialTracker, and transplanted it into new innovations.
Remember, IXICO is already working with the likely first adopters of this neuroimaging technology – Biogen’s stated aim is to be a pioneer in neuroscience but the platform is likely to be of interest to other major pharmaceuticals companies active in this area.
Why are the multi-national drug giants interested in companion products and willing to shell out for them?
Well, very soon these businesses may be paid on patient outcomes – or good old-fashioned value for money to use more common parlance.
The Biogen collaboration may be in its infancy, but it provides proof positive that IXICO’s strategy has legs.
At 30p, the AIM-listed company is valued at about £14mln.